HOUSTON -- An all-around effort inside TDECU Stadium helped Houston Football become bowl eligible for the fifth straight year as the Cougars earned a 52-27 win over ECU on Saturday.
With the win, Houston improved to 6-3 on the year and 4-2 in the American Athletic Conference, while ECU fell to 2-7 and 1-4 in league action.
The win also helped Houston to its fifth straight bowl game and ninth five-year streak of 6+ wins in UH history. Major Applewhite is only the third UH coach to win six of his first nine games in his first season.
The 52 points scored by the Cougars were the most since 63 at Texas State in 2016 and the second-most in an American Athletic Conference game since scoring 52 vs. Navy in 2015.
D'Eriq King made his first career start at quarterback for Houston and produced a career day. The sophomore passed for a career-best 330 yards on a 15-for-21 effort and three touchdowns with no interceptions. He also rushed for 14 yards on three carriers and one score.
Houston put on a show offensively, tallying 472 yards of offense -- 330 coming from the passing game alone.
Leading the way on the receiving end was the duo of Steven Dunbar and Linell Bonner. Dunbar finished with a career-high 171 receiving yards on six catches, surpassing his previous high of 150 vs. Tulsa in 2014.
Bonner notched a season-high 147 yards receiving on seven catches, surpassing his previous season high of 132 vs. Rice.
Dunbar and Bonner became the 12th & 13th players in school history to eclipse 2,000 receiving yards in a career following Saturday's performances.
Duke Catalon led the rushing charge with nine carries for 77 yards and a score, while Mulbah Car added eight carries for 29 yards and a score.
Defensively, Houston forced ECU into three turnovers and eventually all three led to scoring plays for the Cougars and 21 points.
Terrell Williams and Brandon McDowell each recorded an interception with McDowell's being his first career -- returning it for a 74-yard touchdown.
King put the Cougars on top, 7-0, with a 2-yard rushing touchdown with 10:48 left in the first quarter. The Houston scoring continued when Catalon rushed for a 22-yard touchdown just three minutes later to make it 14-0 early.
Houston went on to score its third touchdown of the first quarter, the most points scored in the first quarter this season, as Lark caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from King with 1:20 left for the 21-0 lead.
ECU opened the second quarter with a 16-play drive, but was held to just a field goal to make it 21-3.
Just over one minute later, Houston's Car rushed for a 1-yard touchdown, notching its third rushing touchdown of the game. That score extended the Cougars lead to 28-3 with 7:19 left in the second quarter.
ECU wrapped up the first half with a 34-yard touchdown pass and opened the third with a 9-yard touchdown pass -- both to Trevon Brown -- to trim Houston's lead to 28-17.
The Houston offense quickly responded big scoring plays as Dunbar connected on a career-long 75-yard touchdown pass from King with 8:52 left and quickly following, Bonner found the end zone on a 62-yard pass from King for the 42-17 lead midway through the third quarter.
Caden Novikoff connected on a 44-yard field goal with 1:22 left in the third to extend Houston's lead to 45-17.
The fourth quarter got off to a big start as Brandon McDowell intercepted an ECU pass and returned in 74 yards for a touchdown -- the first defensive touchdown of the year for the Cougars -- to make it 52-17 with 12:26 left in the game.
ECU kicker Jake Verity drilled a 52-yard field goal midway through the fourth with Houston leading 52-20. The Pirates scored on an 18-yard pass with 2:48 left in the game.
ECU quarterback Gardner Minshew passed for 463 yards on a 52-of-68 effort with three touchdowns and one interception.
Houston's bye week will come next week. The Cougars will face Tulane in New Orleans on Nov. 18. Time will be announced on Monday, Nov. 6.